Peer reviews dictate how we shop, teenagers in particular. They seek approval from their friends who often hold more influence over fashion choices than a carefully planned out advertisement. Today’s reviews are not in the pages of magazines but broadcast via webcam for an audience of millions over the web. “Haul” videos, if you’re not tuned in, are basically a review of one’s shopping trip. These videos are made predominantly by teenage girls and mostly cover shopping sprees of the apparel and makeup persuasion. The goods are usually from mid to mass retailers like Forever 21 or Target, making them attainable purchases for the avid watcher. This phenomenon feeds right into the need of consumers to “keep up with the Joneses”. Plus it’s kind of fun to live vicariously through the spending of others.
The reigning queens of haul videos are 16 year old Blair Fowler and her 21 year old sister Elle. Their YouTube channels juicystar07 and allthatglitters21, respectively, have garnered a combined half million subscribers. That kind of captive audience is priceless, which is why retailers are sending freebies their way to review and hopefully endorse. These girls hold more sway over purchase decisions than any commercial ever could. The Federal Trade Commission has had to step in to require that haulers disclose any item they’ve received for free. The more successful haulers are involved in YouTube’s Partner program, allowing them to profit from ad revenue on their videos.
This need to have approval from peers has shown itself in all forms of shopping. Consumers “bring” their friends and family along on shopping trips by taking pictures with their mobile phones. Retailers like Levis create peer review communities on Facebook. You can upload pictures of yourself on retail site Tobi.com and virtually try on clothing to be shared with your friends. And a recent view of “Say Yes To the Dress”, a popular wedding reality show on TLC, saw a bride try on a dress for her father via webcam before making her final decision. It seems that shopping has become a team sport and retailers are really beginning to cheer it on.